India plans to send senior ministers to 68 countries by the end of 2016 as a part of the Narendra Modi government’s massive outreach programme to boost bilateral ties and explore new areas of co-operation.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has issued a statement in this regard according to which majority of these countries is located in Eastern Europe. The ministry said that it asked various ministers to visit some specific countries in the last quarter of the year as Prime Minister Modi wants to boost India’s ties with all these countries.
Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi over the weekend, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said: “By 2016-end, we will not leave any country where Indian ministers have not gone.” She informed the media that her ministry identified 68 countries that have not been visited by Indian ministers in the last ten years. According to Swaraj, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is scheduled to arrive in Estonia on Sunday (September 11). Later, he will travel to Latvia. Soon, Home Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Hungary, while Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu will travel to Bosnia.
Former Estonian Ambassador to New Delhi Viljar Lubi, too, confirmed the Indian Electronics and IT minister’s visit to Tallinn, saying: “We have never hosted Indian ministers before. Mr Prasad’s visit is very important as IT has been a field of bilateral co-operation. Minister Prasad and PM Modi have been kind enough to praise Estonian e-governance and cyber security capabilities. This visit will definitely take this co-operation even closer.”
A senior External Affairs Ministry official stressed that India wants to “enhance our diplomatic relations and strengthen co-operation in the field that the minister is in charge of”. The Modi government believes that “positive” conversations could lead to “co-operation” without which it would not be possible for India to fulfil its global ambitions, explained the official. He further said that India had engaged with 101 countries in 2015 and with another 39 countries in the first half of this year.
Since becoming prime minister in May 2014, Modi has made foreign policy a cornerstone of his administration. The PM has visited 38 countries in the first two years of his five-year tenure. These visits helped the premier infuse a personal enthusiasm into the Indian diplomatic establishment. Commenting on his government’s foreign policy, Modi recently said: “Foreign policy is not about changing mindsets. It is about finding the common meeting points. Where do our interests converge and how much? We have to sit and talk with every country. It’s our ongoing effort.”
According to the PM, it becomes crucial for India to engage with everyone as the bi-polar world order does not exist. Modi wants India to connect with everybody (including enemies or competitors) at the same time in interconnected and interdependent modern world.